ROME (AFP) - Number two seed Novak Djokovic set up a semi-final meeting with Canada's Milos Raonic at the Rome Masters after ousting Spain's David Ferrer 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 on Friday.
After dominating a hard-fought opening set, the Serbian was outplayed in the second and had to overcame a few wobbles on his way to wrapping up the match in 2hr 31min.
Leading 3-1 in the deciding set, Djokovic allowed his Spanish rival to break back to 3-3 before serving to take a 4-3 lead.
Despite some resistance from Ferrer in a thrilling eighth game, Djokovic broke back when he sent a powerful drive past the Spaniard and into the corner to take a 5-3 lead.
Ferrer was equally defiant in the final game, but after saving two break points the Spaniard capitulated when he netted what looked like an easy return.
Earlier, Raonic claimed his last-four spot with a commanding 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 quarter-final win over Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.
Chardy had eliminated Swiss fourth seed Roger Federer on Wednesday 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8/6).
But after seeing the unseeded Frenchman fighting back to level by winning a close second set, Raonic regained control of the match in a largely one-sided third set to advance.
Raonic, considered an outside bet for the French Open later this month, said his next challenge would prove difficult whichever player he met.
"If I can control the centre of the court, if I can really be the one dictating and take care of my service it's going to be very important," he said.
Italy's number 10 seed Sara Errani, meanwhile, benefited from huge crowd support as she stunned China's number two seed Li Na 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
Errani has now made the semis for the second consecutive year, keeping her on course to become the first Italian woman since Raffaella Reggi 29 years ago to win the tournament when it was held in Taranto.
The Italian will meet the winner of the quarter-final between Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, seeded six, and Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, who is the third seed.
Errani was joined in the last four by Ana Ivanovic, although the Serbian 11th seed had to dig deep throughout a thrilling encounter with Carla Suarez Navarro before finally beating the Spaniard, seeded 13, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
Ivanovic will now meet either defending champion and top seed Serena Williams of the United States or China's Zhang Shuai.
The pick of Friday's matches will be the last eight clash between British seventh seed Andy Murray and top seed Rafael Nadal of Spain.